Out of Sight Out of Mind: The Dispersant Strategy

A plastic yellow post marks oil pipeline under a beach near Grand Isle, La

May 18th, 2011 –Throughout our time in the Gulf, it became increasingly apparent that much of the cleanup and response efforts seemed to be more motivated by public appearance than by efficiency. Throughout the spring, summer, and beyond the people of the Gulf, the nation, and the world cried out for British Petroleum to make things better, as they’d so publicly promised. In response, BP put forth a costly barrage of efforts that, upon first glance, might have seemed highly coordinated and effective. In reality, however, the cleanup efforts were marred by bureaucracy, high costs, and general inefficiency.

That is not to take away from the efforts of the men and women of the Gulf who worked to clean oil from their beaches, shores, and waters – often times doing so in their own boats. These people worked tirelessly through a blazing summer to help repair the Gulf and to continue to make a living despite the hard times brought on by the spill. The unfortunate situation is that these workers were often stifled by BP and the Unified Command.  In Florida, VOO workers lined harbor docks adorned in their BP-required high grade life-perservers or scuttled around on their boats looking for signs of oil. Yet if they found it, they were permitted to nothing more than report it up the chain of command. In Louisiana, cleanup workers were restrained from picking up debris such as oiled boom that littered the state’s marshes and shores. Throughout the Gulf, BP refused to allow their workers to don additional protective measures, such as facemasks. Workers who attempted wear them were threatened with losing their jobs.

Then there is the subject of dispersants. The 2 million gallons of these chemicals that were reported to have been sprayed on and injected into the Gulf waters represented a major facet of BP’s cleanup efforts. While there is much debate on the ecological effects of dispersants, their ability to break up and sink surface oil is undoubted.  Red Bridge’s first piece from our time in the Gulf will explore this strategy, ultimately looking at BP’s approach to the cleanup efforts as largely driven by public image and ultimately the value of their own stock price. View the first trailer below and keep an eye out for more.

Click here for more about the project and the time we spent in the Gulf.

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